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Industry news


Action needed on conditions in rental properties


Government allows renewal of Newham licensing scheme


effective landlord scheme in the capital. Newham has one of the biggest rental markets


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A backbench MP is resuming her campaign to improve the condition of rented properties and make it easier for tenants to take effective action where landlords fail to fix dangerous faults. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation


and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill is a private members Bill sponsored by Westminster North Labour MP Karen Buck. It had its first reading last July and is due to have a second reading in the Commons on the 19th January this year. Its chances of success have greatly


improved as a result of the Government deciding to support the Bill. Ms Buck’s previous attempt to get the laws on private rental properties strengthened were defeated when Conservative backbench MPs (many of them private landlords) talked it out, but that is less likely to be repeated now that Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has given it his backing. It aims to amend parts of the Landlord and


Tenant Act 1985 and the Building Act 1984 to ensure rented accommodation is maintained in a state fit for human habitation. Where major faults or safety hazards exist then it makes landlords legally responsible for resolving them, or being liable for the cost of corrective works. The types of hazard includes leaking roofs, exposed or overloaded wiring, damp, badly fitted doors etc. Meanwhile a report from campaigning


charity Shelter has concluded that current laws governing health and safety do not safeguard people sufficiently in their own homes. Existing legislation is seen as inadequate and difficult to understand, making it costly to enforce. They are recommending a new law which is


tenure neutral and provides local authorities with sufficient resources for them to proactively investigate and take enforcement action. Both areas have been starved of resources due to public sector spending cuts over the last eight years. With an obvious and understandable nod


to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the report’s authors say that “serious consideration” needs to be given to increasing the role of the fire authorities in fire risk assessments “to ensure that fire safety decisions are made independently of cost factors”.


in the country with over 40,000 properties owned and let out by private landlords. It set up its large scale licensing scheme in 2013 and since then has undertaken more than 1,200 prosecutions, more than half the total for the whole of London. After a lengthy delay, the Department for


Communities and Local Government has given permission for the licensing scheme to be renewed but on condition that it omits the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park area. This will be operational from the 1st March 2018. Newham’s scheme requires all landlords to


license all of their privately rented properties with the council. In 2015 the Government changed the regulations so that councils now require specific permission if they want to bring in licensing


n east London borough has been allowed to renew its private rented sector licensing scheme, hailed as the biggest and most


schemes which cover more than 20 per cent of the local authority’s area. Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, has called


on ministers to reverse this rule. He said: “Government finally recognised the success of Newham’s scheme, but it is ridiculous that ministers took so long to conclude that protecting tenants and driving up standards is a good thing. The council should not have been forced to spend so much time and resources justifying something so successful.” Late last year the council made a number of high-


profile inspections of privately rented properties, often with the mayor present, and made a series of disturbing discoveries with people being charged hundreds of pounds a month for wholly unsuitable accommodation – in garden sheds and garages, in under the stairs cupboards and with bunkbeds squeezed into single size bedrooms. Newham’s scheme allows them to issue landlords


with financial penalty notices of up to £30,000 per offence, depending on the seriousness of the conditions they find.


Tougher housing enforcement powers for officers


as the city aims to provide further protection and rights for tenants. Under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, the


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council’s Cabinet has armed its housing officers with the right to issue civil penalties to rogue landlords. Those found breaking housing laws could be handed civil penalties up to £30,000 per offence, depending on the impact of the breach and culpability of the offender. The council will retain any funds obtained from


civil penalties provided it is used to further the council’s statutory functions in relation to private rented sector housing enforcement. Where landlords, owners and letting agents


agree to work positively with the council to address issues identified in statutory notices and orders, the council will consider a reduction in the enforcement charge subject to them agreeing to being registered under the Rent with Confidence star-rating


20 | HMM January 2018 | www.housingmmonline.co.uk


olverhampton Council is giving its officers more enforcement powers against rogue private sector landlords


programme, and achieving a minimum of a three- star rating out of five. Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing,


Councillor Peter Bilson, said: “This move is in line with our efforts to improve the city housing offer and provide more transparency for landlords. It will complement the Rent with Confidence scheme for landlords and their properties. “We must support responsible private housing


businesses in the city and improve quality and choice for private sector housing occupiers. We will continue to work with landlords, agents, owners and service users by providing a range of information and guidance through the Rent with Confidence scheme.” To further support the council’s Rent with


Confidence scheme, landlords who have three stars or more will receive a discount on their mandatory HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) licence application fee. Three-star landlords will receive a 33 per cent discount, four-star landlords 66 per cent, and five-star landlords 100 per cent.


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